Sunday, September 30, 2012

Good Sunday

I just got off a rambling video chat with my daughter, who was cosy in her dorm room after doing laundry and tidying up her desk, and was curled up on her bed watching the rain from her window. She vowed not to set a foot outside all day. What about dinner, I asked her. Ramen noodles, she said.

Now I'm watching football with my husband and fondly remembering when I used to win all the football pools at my previous job. I was pregnant with my daughter, and my husband and I used to joke that her little spirit was channeling the future and I was listening well.

I don't have the usual Sunday-before-Monday angst, and I've figured out why. I'm filling in for my boss, who is on two months medical leave (she's going to be fine), and I'm the one in the morning meetings with her boss, so I'm in the know as things arise, and I have a chance to share my thinking, help steer the course, which means things don't feel as uncertain suddenly. I'm no longer the sitting duck waiting for instructions to walk in my door, lacking context, leaving me to discern the true intent behind the directives, and deliver on that.

Now, I'm the one walking into my poor colleagues offices and giving them the ever changing news. I do try hard to give the context, and to help them figure out a way forward before I walk away. And I get to delegate, rather than have it delegated to me. I'm usually really glad not to be the boss, but I'm finding, after two super intense weeks of getting used to this new role, that being present at the inception of ideas and being able to weigh in on midstream changes definitely has its perks. Like more serene Sundays for starters. At least this Sunday.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


While I browsed along window shopping on Broadway with a friend today, stopping at one point for almond cappuccinos, my husband attended the ordination of new priests at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and reflected, not on whether he should have been a priest (his path not taken), but on how filled with pride his mother would have been had she witnessed such a thing as her son's ordination at that inexpressibly moving ceremony in her lifetime. Meanwhile our children were attending an upstate apple fest, strolling about the Commons and introducing each other to their college friends, catching a Gangnam Style flash mob and enjoying the happenstance of being in the same town for a year, my son a senior at one school, my daughter a freshman at another. And in Florida, my niece, the fifth of our tribe, was studying for her masters and getting ready to fly to Tennessee for her dental school interview at Meharry this week (send good thoughts). We are all in such different places than we were just a short year ago. And I imagine us, sallying forth, connected by invisible threads.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Perform/ Float

Dorm room on move in day last August

Our girl child called. Things are generally good although she's had a very busy week, with homecoming this last weekend, and a film screening with friends, and a huge overwhelming data project for which she had to analyze why her properties weren't performing up to par and then present the problem and the solution in charts and slides and templates. I'm just impressed that she can figure out what sets of data (staffing, occupancy rates, revenue streams, amenities, whatever) she needs to come up with to answer the question of why her properties aren't performing. Never mind the way they're surreptitiously training her to think in terms of her properties.

For the project, she decided she owns a chain of hotels. She named them Arrindell Arms, after the title of the cookbook our family compiled and self-published as gifts one Christmas (using Her dad said, "But Arrindell Arms is a bed and breakfast." It's what we playfully call our apartment because my husband usually rustles up a sumptuous breakfast for our regular stream of guests. "Gotta keep up, Dad," our daughter joked. "We've expanded. We have a chain of full service hotels now."

Then the next morning she called and said she was feeling grumpy. We figured out that maybe she had been too much with people for too many days in a row, and needed some alone time to watch Netflix and just mentally float. She said, "That sort of makes sense because I think I'm really an introvert with extrovert tendencies, meaning I'm able to be very social, but after a while I feel depleted by being so social and have to be alone to recharge." I had no idea she had done any thinking about introvert and extrovert tendencies, but I'd say she nailed it. She described her mother in that sentence, too.

With friends and fellow Hotelies last weekend

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Whole against the sky

Once the realization is accepted that even between 
the closest human beings infinite distances continue, 
a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed 
in loving the distance between them, which makes it 
possible for each to see the other whole against the sky. 

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Guess who showed up at our door last night? That's right, our son surprised us by coming home for the weekend. Better yet, he has not a plan in the world except to hang out at home and do whatever with his parents. How cool is that?

He was kind of perplexed when he walked in, because there were half-finished pina coladas in the living room and various tapas dishes abandoned on the kitchen counter, and he was like, "What is this? Am I interrupting date night?" My husband and I laughed and didn't say "Some things never change," because this is one of those unchanging things that makes us happy as can be. 

This morning we talked warmly and easily as he looked up dates for the firefighter exam and how to get hired as an EMS by the FDNY, and whether they will pay to train him as a paramedic and how often the promotion exam to firefighter is given, and pay scales and heart things and everything about what happens after May when he graduates from college and whether he'll live abroad for a while, or travel the world, and he's busy mapping out the next phase of his life.

But now I have to stop before I say too much because that line I walk to maintain a modicum of privacy about my children's lives is about to be crossed and Lord knows, I dance back and forth across that line all the time. They roll their eyes and indulge me and sometimes they ask me to take a post down. We'll see. I think I stopped in time. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Slowly by slowly


Of late, I have been experiencing the odd sense of being newly awake to the city around me. I find myself whipping out my Blackberry and snapping pictures, and wishing I had an iPhone so I could play with Instagram more than I do on my Touch, the camera for which doesn't compare. But what is that sense of awakening? It's as if I've been on autopilot, not really seeing what's there, the gritty beauty of it all, the intricate designs on prewar buildings, the posters plastered one on top of the other on plywood around construction sites, creating incredible accidental collages, the layered reflections in storefronts I pass, chaotic and ever changing, like the city.

I'm waking up to myself as well, finally paying attention to the aches in my body, and deciding I don't have to live with them, they are not destiny. And my man, sometimes I look at him and feel such a rush of affection, like we're in this together, still making it up as we go.

I had lunch last Saturday with one of my dearest friends, and over my almond cappuccino, with the cool September sun on our shoulders, it occurred to me that the way to trip myself up in this new stage of my life is to hobble it with expectations of what it should be. My friend and I discussed this revelation, picking it apart like we were in therapy, and when I left her, I realized that I had taken off a very weighty garment, left it neatly folded on a corner somewhere, there was no need at all to bring it home.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rainy Night

It poured buckets in the city last night, the skies just opened, and I was marooned in midtown, no cabs, far from a train after my physical therapy appointment, huddled with other marooned midtowners under a flimsy awning and my sweet man braved the downpour to come and get me. It took a full hour for him to get there because so many streets were flooded and closed and Obama was in town for a fundraiser, so other streets were cordoned off. When we finally got home, I saw that dinner had already been made, coconut-mango chicken with onions and peppers and jasmine rice, and I wrapped a blanket around myself and exhaled, grateful for this man.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

47 Percent

"The Real Romney Captured on Tape Turns Out to Be a Sneering Plutocrat" says New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait. Click here to go to the article, possibly my favorite of all the pieces published today about the remarks made by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney at a private fundraiser. Romney basically said 47 percent of Americans don't pay income taxes and those folks are moochers who actually believe the government should ensure that they have health care, shelter and food, they actually believe that. The moochers, by the way, include:

The disabled
The retired elderly
College kids with federal student loans
The working poor
Soldiers and military veterans
Rookie cops
Proby firefighters
Anyone making under $45,000 a year

Romney laments that he will never convince these government dependent masses to rise out of their shiftless victim mentality and man up and woman up and take care of themselves, so why bother with them, who cares about them, his job is to cater to the other 53 percent, especially the ones whose parents paid for private school and college and grad school and bought their son's first home (as Romney's parents did) all so that Romney could declare that he never took a dime from his parents, his wealth was self-earned. Oh right. There was that million his parents gave him, but that didn't matter. He was already rich.

Well, gee, that makes me sound so bitter. I'm not, really. Just incredulous. Truth is, I'm not mad at rich folks. I'd be quite happy if my children get rich while constructing a life they love, but really, the goal is for them to be able to take care of themselves and their families, and there are millions upon millions who aren't what you call rich who manage that. My problem with Romney is he acts as if the rich are morally superior, and those who are not wealthy are just lazy and stupid and not worth his time.

The actual quote that has spawned a million bits of type and a parade of talking heads is this: "There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it—that that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.... [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

On my way to work this morning, I was intrigued by how ominous the sky looked, and I wondered if I would see it again before night fell, since I knew I had a long day in the office ahead of me. Yes, I am part of the 53 percent, even if my children with their student loans and my old aunt who is bedridden with state-subsidized care and my cousin who served in Afghanistan and has his health care paid by the government, are part of the 47 percent. Mitt Romney says it's not his job to worry about them. Funny thing is, I know Mitt Romney doesn't think his job is to worry about me either.

At least Obama's interested in being everybody's president, even those ones who hate him, who are some of the very same folk who don't even realize that Mitt Romney has contempt for them. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sail on, Silver Girl

Tonight I watched a PBS documentary on Simon and Garfunkel called Songs for America and suddenly in the middle of it I was just sobbing, great silent heaving sobs as they sang "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" to a montage of images from the sixties, JFK, MLK, Bobby and Ceasar, Vietnam and Civil Rights and molotov cocktails, all that hope and fire and despair, just like now really, except then people were marching in the streets, and gathering in fields of rain for that three-day music lovefest that was Woodstock, and I glimpsed the self I used to be, the aching dreaming girl who knew from the time she knew herself that she would one day move to America, to be part of all that marching, all that life, just waiting for the day when I would travel north, knowing somehow that it was written, the place I would find myself, dreaming as I played that song again and again, and all their other songs too, "Scarborough Fair," The Boxer," "The Sounds of Silence," "America," all of them, even the ones most people don't remember, and I knew all the words, every line, every syllable, got chills at the sudden harmonizing on "Sail on silver girl, sail on by, your time has come to shine," and I wept tonight, remembering the girl in that bedroom, playing those songs on repeat, so ardent and hopeful and lost, and while the Beatles defined the sixties for so many, for me it was always Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, those yearning boys so wrote and sang my soul.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Paying it Forward

That's my sweet boy helping his Grandma get seated in her chair on the verandah in St. Lucia a little over a month ago. From there she could watch the comings and goings as the kids and their dad went back and forth to the beach, and neighbors came by to sit with her and drink tea, and the minister came to read with her and debate the meaning of what they had read, and she was in the place where she had schooled her grandchildren every summer when they were growing up, schooled them in faith and humor and compassion and manners and cookery, schooled them in love and kindness and family loyalty. Her grandchildren are the people they are because they had her. I don't doubt this for a minute. She has been instrumental in their becoming.

Speaking of my children, they seem to be fine. My daughter has a lot of work and is battling, she says, "the impostor syndrome," the feeling that Cornell made a mistake admitting her. It seems many of her fellow freshmen are feeling the same way, so apparently it's normal. The professors, handing back mediocre grades to these children who have been accustomed to getting better, have assured them that this is how it begins, they will figure it out. I know my girl will. For one thing, she has begun reading teacher comments on her papers and projects, something I tried to get her to do in high school. But mostly she would get a paper back and toss it onto her desk, and I would say, "But how will you improve if you don't read what your teachers have to say," and she'd smile at me and do a little shrug. Well, now she's reading the comments. Finally.

In other news I have recently managed to stop texting her obsessively. I find that the less I get in touch, the more often she does. It worked that way with my son, too, when he was a freshman. Funny thing is, he calls all the time now that he is a senior, and I love getting those calls more than anything. He calls to discuss family finances (yes, this boy is very money conscious and patiently explained to me why we can't afford to get him a car this year) or to tell me he's picking up sports psychology as a minor. "It's so great to still be excited about learning something new in my senior year," he said. "And don't get me wrong I still want to be a firefighter, but if that doesn't pan out, who knows, I  might get my masters in sports psych."

He's always been a good boy. He has become such a good man, even if he still has to work on managing that impatient streak he and I share. But we get on so well over the phone. I have to keep telling him, though, not to worry about his college bills. That's our job, I tell him. Your job is to work hard and get good grades. One day you will pay it forward to my grandchildren. But he still sends me money from his paycheck. I'm not quite sure where he learned this fiscal vigilance. I do know it wasn't from me. Probably from his dad, or maybe it's just innate.

Meanwhile my love and I are figuring out this empty nest thing. It really is odd, after twenty years of raising children, of being as child centered as we both were, to have the evenings stretch out before us with nothing that we have to do. I'm starting to appreciate it more. Last night, after a tough day at work, my husband decided it was time for pina coladas and tapas. He made plates of olives and onions, dates stuffed with gouda, smoked sausage links, and we ate and drank our frozen cocktails and watched a movie and I thought, This empty nest thing has possibilities.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Half Light

“If you can get through the twilight, 
you'll live through the night.”

― Dorothy Parker

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


When I opened my eyes this morning, my husband was already dressed and about to leave for work. He said, "It's another gorgeous blue September 11 day. Look outside." We all remember the blue that day, the crispness of the air, what pilots call "severe clear." It is almost that blue today, but not quite. I think that as long as I live, no morning will ever be quite that blue again.

We're here again. On this day eleven years ago, everything changed. Terror planes flew into the Twin Towers and they fell down. My husband and I went at once to get our children, one in second grade and the other in fifth, so we could huddle against the apocalypse. We were all such innocents before that day. Perhaps we can be again.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Sunday was a good day.

Yesterday, for the first time since we moved our son and daughter into their respective dorms for the school year, our son a senior at one college, our daughter a freshman at another, I felt my mood lighten, the sadness begin to lift. I still miss them, of course, but some light crawled into my narrow little life and I realized that I suddenly have all this time to do with as I please and I can come and go as I please, and even more, I realized I had been doing exactly that, dinner with friends, Governor's Island last Sunday for a picnic and outdoor music with my husband and my friend Leslie, coffee yesterday on a whim with my friend Isabella, the best almond cappuccino in the city at a place I had never before tried, and preliminary plans among some of the mothers and fathers of children newly delivered to college to schedule a weekly bowling night. The truth is, we are all bereft and struggling, some of us more than others.

Yesterday, I went to church with my husband, and as I was singing the hymns I remember from my childhood, I had to blink back tears (of nostalgia? loss?) but afterward, I wondered if in fact it might be true what the studies say, that church can reorient your mood, because I didn't feel quite so hopeless about everything afterward. I even watched NFL opening weekend football with my husband and began to think I might want to make my own fantasy football team. I'd make some wacky team choices for sure, and that might be enough to put me in the winning position, because it's always the players you never see coming who run away with the prize. Well, not always, but enough of the time to make me a contender. Or that's how it worked back before I had my daughter when I would always win the office football pool because I picked teams that made no sense to anyone else, especially the super jock guys, but my crazy underdog teams usually ended up winning just enough to put me ahead of the pack.

Oh, and maybe I'll join this art collective in the Village that Isabella told me about, and maybe I'll make pottery and go back to my yoga for abundant bodies class and learn to play bridge. Maybe I'll schedule weekly massages and start a new novel, or finish one of the three that are sitting unfinished on my old computer.

Maybe I'll actually do some or all of these things. Why the hell not?

Here are some photos from our Sunday on Governor's Island, a former military installation that is accessible by free ferry from lower Manhattan. The buildings and the grounds remind me of every university campus I ever visited with my children, it would make a perfect set for a college movie, and maybe I'll be a location scout in my next brilliant career. The whole island is now a national park teeming with visitors sampling art galleries, restaurants, bike trails, beach festivals and outdoor concerts or just lying on the grass gazing up at the sky. In three-plus decades of living in New York City, this was the first time that I'd been there.

That's what I'm talking about.

Ground Zero is across the water from the ferry landing.

The houses used to be officer's quarters.

We stopped for lunch at South Street Seaport.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Emelyn Story

Why exactly did this image stop me and leave me staring at it for a very long time?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Aunt Winnie is 94

Last night, we all came out for her, those of us who live in the city and environs. In the end there were 20 of us gathered round her bed, from a newborn to nieces in their fifties and sixties to her eighty-something sister who drove over with her daughters and son and grandsons from New Jersey. The kids, all of them boys, three of them aunt Winnie's great grandsons, raced through the house, dodging legs and furniture and making the noises children make at birthday festivities. It sounded like a party. Her daughter came, too. My cousin, the professor, had stopped to collect her. She wasn't very high, though she did have an empty bottle of vodka in a paper bag that she left on the kitchen table next to the birthday cake. But she didn't show out. Aunt Winnie stayed in bed this year. A year ago, her son was still alive, and so was my Aunt Fay's husband, and four more of her sisters including my mom had managed to fly to be by her side, but this year, none of them is able to travel anymore. But there was a crowd anyway, and there was the newest generation scooting under and around the hospital bed, playing catch and hide-and-seek and there was laughter and Aunt Winnie looked at everyone around her and tried to say things that I wish we could have understood, but it was a party. We came out for her. There was no question that we would, and it was good to be there with her, all the souls she had welcomed to New York so many decades before, now with their spouses and offspring singing a rousing Happy Birthday to this woman we love, all of us together. For her.

"I am the President"

At the end of his speech, after his wife and daughters joined him on stage, and his vice president's family joined him too, the camera zoomed in on a woman in the crowd, her red hair a firey mane around her, her hands clasped tightly under her chin, her shoulders shaking with her sobs, so powerfully moved was she by the words the President had spoken. It was a moment. For me, there were many such moments during the Democratic National Convention this week—the First Lady's masterful and warmly assured speech, Clinton's charisma and unflinching "arithmetic," the appearance of the First Daughters, so grown up yet still so bright and unforced, and The Man himself, no longer a candidate, but our President, tried and true, making the case for a second term. I'm there, Mr. President. I'm right there.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Four More

Them. This the family I want to see in the White House for another four years.

This president who cherishes his daughters and still looks at his wife as if she's the hottest woman on earth and he's the luckiest man alive to have married her.

Fact is, back when I first got to know him four years ago, I knew he was something special. After all, look who he married, whose counsel he trusts.

And I know that as president, he'll never go far wrong with a woman like that by his side. Just one more reason Obama is my president.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

In the Meantime

I might have mentioned once that I used to do astrological charts using rather professional software. I stopped when I did my young children's charts and suddenly realized I didn't want to think I had any clue about what was ahead for them, who they might be, what past life imprints might be left on them. I didn't want to limit their unfolding in that way. And so I let go of my romantic involvement with the predictive arts, the deeply interwoven stories of lives past and present, karma to be reaped or paid. Still. There are times when I need a fix, something outside of myself telling me that all the craziness, the sense of everything closing in and going haywire that I am experiencing right now, is not actually real in the way I am experiencing it. Rather, it is a flood of negative consciousness, which is only fear, and I have only to detach, accept, survive. Flow.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Kissing the Sky

“There is a trick to flying. The angels told me." He smiled at my wide-eyed awe. "You need to forget everything you know as a human being. When you are human, you discover that there is great power in hating the earth. And it can almost make you fly. But it never will."

I frowned, not quite understanding him. "So, what's the trick?"

"Love the sky.”

—Anne Fortier, Juliet

Photo: My husband and my son, York's Beach, Antigua 1992